SCSU hosts open discussion for Holocaust Remembrance Day
Jene Thomas – General Assignment Reporter
The Nazi regime killed approximately six million Jews in an attempt to completely eradicate the Jewish people in an ethnic cleanse during what is now referred to as the Holocaust.
Dr. David Levine and Dr. Deborah Weiss of the SCSU Judaic Studies department hosted an open discussion for both Jewish and non-Jewish faculty and students to remember the victims of the Holocaust from 70 years ago.
“It’s about all of us, not just some of us,” Levine said.
Holocaust Remembrance Day, or Yom Hoshoah, which translates to “never again,” celebrates the liberation of the concentration camps in 1945. The Yom Hoshoah discussion occurred in Engleman Rm. A113 on Monday, April 13, two days before the beginning of the official Holocaust Remembrance Day that lasted from April 15 to the end of April 16.
With stories of her childhood and the events that led to her escape to America, Dr. Weiss’ mother, Mila Nishball, 93, was invited to speak at the open discussion, having lived in Prague during the time of the Holocaust.
“These survivors are elderly and they have something to tell us and something to teach us and we don’t have enough time to hear from them,” said Weiss.
Mrs. Nishball was born on Aug. 25 in 1921 in Prague, Czechoslovakia, now just known as the Czech. Republic. She recalled happy memories from her childhood, such as eating fruit from the trees her grandmother had or the time her brother allowed her to smoke a cigarette but “the secret was out” because her clothes smelled of smoke. Such stories drew a lot of laughter from the audience.
More serious stories followed.
In March of 1939, the Nazis marched into Prague. Jewish families were ordered to move to the ghettoes within a day’s notice. Mrs. Nishball said her family members would cry when they had to suddenly move, but her mother said they were only leaving material things and “they still had each other.”
“I remember when my father died on their 25th anniversary after being beaten by the Gestapo and still she tried to console me,” she said.
The last time she saw her mother was at the train station in Prague after receiving her Visa for America. Her mother knew it was not safe to travel, but Mrs. Nisball said her mother wanted to see her off. Her husband, Richard Weiss was in America waiting for her.
Towards the end of his lecture, the audience was offered the chance to ask Mrs. Nishball questions. The room was packed, which left some audience members having to stand up. Although the majority of the room was students, many of them received incentives for attending.
“I’m here for my class because we get extra credit,” said Michelle Bravo, freshman communications major.
Other students, like freshman exercise science major Aubrey Bailey, were more self-motivated to go.
“I went because I really wanted to, but we also go extra credit for being there,” Bailey said.
This was the ninth year Southern has hosted an event catered to commemorating Holocaust victims. Yom Hoshoah typically falls on the 27th day of the Hebrew month of Nissan, which falls between March and April, and a week after Passover. Weiss said it was common to host events around this time.
“It also calls upon us, all of us, to renew our determination to speak out and act out, vigorously, against all racial and ethnic hatred, against whoever it is aimed,” said Levine. “That’s the spirit in which we commemorate this day here at Southern.”
Photo Credit: Brittney Bush Bollay